After the New Year, every acquaintance, friend, and coworker I run into wants to know where we are planning to go this summer. Its a right of passage for this family to go to some far flung place for weeks and live out of a backpack in a foreign land on a crazy cheap budget. We have been living a dream that was a decade in the making. Our family travel resume includes Costa Rica 2009, Peru 2010, Dominican Republic 2011, and Colombia 2012.
Right around this time of year, for the past four years, I usually begin to dream and plan where we will escape to for three weeks this summer. I start looking at costs, trolling travel blogs, studying flight price patterns and investigating the logistics of visas and vaccinations. I often have a list of places we are considering and a mixture of angst and excitement about each one. When people ask me about where we are going in the summer I really love telling them. I have really liked being this family that stretches itself into experiencing other cultures and countries, that takes 15 hour bus rides, eats street food for dinner, and sleeps in dumpy hotels to be able to afford the whole thing.
This year's answer is different and not exciting at all. When I say it it comes out as a long story and people really don't want to hear it. Our choices this year don't reflect our family dream but instead indicate that detours and circumstances get in the way of dreams and plans. People don't really care to hear about it, it's boring.
But since you are here you must want to know. There are a few answers to the excitement saturated query of "So, where are you guys going this year?"
Answer 1: We are going to the orthodontist! Our middle schooler needs braces this summer and the cost just about equals the cost of an international trip (around 6k).
Answer 2: If Luis gets accepted into the principal fellows program we are not going anywhere because the opportunity comes with a 10k pay cut. Not only will we stay home this summer, but also the next and likely the following summer as well. A 10k pay cut is pretty significant. It curtails our ability to save for an international trip and retirement for that matter. We are looking at two very lean years ahead if he gets this fellowship. Jet setting to South America will not be in the cards. Although, we still will be eating a lot of rice and beans. Very few applicants receive this fellowship so my doom and gloom prediction is likely unwarranted. We won't know anything until April or May.
Answer 3: We are talking about taking a driving trip out west to visit national parks. A few ideas are being thrown around....northern California and the redwood forest, or deserts of the southwest like grand canyon, slot canyon, four corners etc, or Yellowstone National Park. To keep the cost under 3k we would have to camp every night. Luis has been wanting an American trip for quite a while. I have been fighting it tooth and nail. It's expensive! And it's the opposite of adventurous. It's touristy. It's too damn easy. It's boring and predictable. Luis is about ready to say its an American national park trip or nothing. I can feel it. He wants to issue an ultimatum. Maybe if I just give in this once I won't have to do it again. Just get it over with. I feel like such a bitch.
Answer 4: Two weeks in Las Galeras, Dominican Republic staying in that off the beaten path dirt cheap bungalow hiking to deserted beaches and reading a stack of novels in a hammock. This trip we could do for 3k including airfare. I dream about going back to the DR. I was so happy and relaxed there that I even forgot what I do for a living, and thats really saying something. Going to the dominican republic feels indulgent when I consider the need for braces, the possibility of a substantial paycut, and the fact that I need to throw in the towel and let my husband choose where we go for once.
Answer 5: We are skipping a year because we are saving to go to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. This is my soccer obsessed son's dream. From what I know about the costs of traveling to Brazil and the likely price inflations of the world cup I can't imagine how we would afford this trip even without any of the previous answers! It would take three years of saving and not traveling in the summer. It will be impossible if Luis gets that fellowship.
So you can see that I don't have an exotic answer this year. I don't usually go into detail for most people, I usually just joke around and say we are going to the orthodontist. It gets a good laugh and takes the pressure off, plus it is true. Nothing can be considered until we find out about the fellowship program in the spring.
The fact that these are champagne problems is not lost on me. Despite my rant I don't see the glass as half empty or half full, But I am grateful to have a glass.